Chris Seidl to the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce

Speech

Ottawa, Ontario
April 4, 2019

Chris Seidl, Executive Director, Telecommunications
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Check against delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

My name is Chris Seidl and I am the Executive Director of Telecommunications at the CRTC. I’m joined today by my colleagues Scott Shortliffe, Chief Consumer Officer, and Renée Doiron, Director of Broadband and Network Engineering.

We welcome this opportunity to bring the CRTC’s perspective to your important study of open banking for Canadian financial services consumers. While the Commission comes at this issue from a telecommunications perspective, not the banking sector, there is a clear link between them in today’s world of digital commerce.

Access to broadband Internet services

The common ground is found in the CRTC’s universal service objective. Its goal is to ensure that allCanadians – in rural and remote areas as well as in urban centres – have access to voice and broadband Internet services on fixed and mobile wireless networks so they can participate in the digital economy.

Broadband is the critical tool we use for everything from banking and shopping, to accessing health care and other government services. It is equally crucial to Canada’s future economic prosperity, global competitiveness, social development and democratic discourse.

That’s why, in December 2016, the Commission announced that broadband Internet is now considered a basic telecommunications service. Our universal service objective calls for all Canadians to have access to fixed broadband at download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 10 Mbps, as well as an unlimited data option. In addition, the latest mobile wireless technology needs to be available to all homes and businesses, and also along major Canadian roads.

We anticipate that 90% of Canadian households will have access to 50/10 speeds by 2021, with the remaining households to be connected as soon as possible within the following decade. These expectations are closely aligned with the federal government’s recently announced national broadband target.

We are making significant headway in advancing this goal. As of December 2017, 97% of households in urban areas had access to service that meets the universal service objective. However, just 37% of households in rural areas had similar access at the end of 2017.

To help bridge the digital divide, the CRTC has established the Broadband Fund to support projects in areas that don’t meet these targets. The Fund is designed specifically to improve broadband services in rural and remote regions that lack an acceptable level of access.

The Fund will have up to $750 million, over the first five years, to build or upgrade access and transport infrastructure to provide fixed and mobile wireless broadband Internet service in underserved areas.

Up to 10% of the annual total will be provided to satellite-dependent communities. Special consideration may also be given to projects targeted to Indigenous or official-language minority communities.

The Broadband Fund is meant to be complementary to – but not a replacement for – existing and future private investment and public funding.

In late 2018, we established the criteria that will be used to evaluate and select applications for funding, and published maps that show which regions have access to the universal service objective and which do not.

In the coming months, we will issue a call for applications. The call will set out the length of the application period as well as eligible areas and the type of projects that will be targeted.

Vulnerable Canadians

The CRTC also aims to ensure the needs of Canadians – and especially vulnerable Canadians – are met. For example, we recently held public consultations about a potential code of conduct for Internet service providers. If adopted, the code would establish consumer-friendly business practices, ensure contracts are easy to understand, and make it easier for Canadians to switch providers to take advantage of competitive offers.

We will announce our decision regarding an Internet Code in the coming months.

It is important to note that similar codes are already in place for wireless and television services, which have proven to be effective in establishing protections for consumers.

We also recently issued a report on aggressive and misleading sales practices in the communications market, and are considering a number of additional measures to empower consumers and promote their fair treatment.

Conclusion

Mr. Chairman, extending broadband to underserved households, businesses and along major roads will ensure that Canadians can take advantage of existing and new and innovative digital services, such as open banking.

We would now be pleased to answer your questions.

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